Sat 28 Mar 2009 2:17 pm
Seattle’s “Rising Star” chefs got a chance this week to collectively show off the dishes that won them the honor from StarChefs, the online magazine that’s been called the industry’s Gourmet. Here’s the tough part, though:
When the StarChef judges sampled the dishes months back, the chefs were cooking in their usual restaurant kitchens, on their home turfs with all their normal equipment. For the public “Rising Stars Revue,” a McCaw Hall gala that reminded me of the post-ceremony feast at the James Beard Awards, chefs had to reproduce their star turns far from six-burner ranges or wood-fired ovens.
They could have gotten another award apiece just for their creativity in making the dishes taste so good even when served up by the hundreds. Bonus: StarChefs is offering adapted — but still quite challenging — recipes for the event’s dishes on its site.
Maria Hines, serving up sous vide wild Alaskan halibut with cranberry beans, lacinato kale, and preserved lemon, dodged some issues simply by bringing her sous vide baths to the event for the precise, consistent, low-temperature cooking the fish required. Luckily, she has invested in sous vide techniques enough at Tilth that she could split her equipment between the restaurant and the event Tuesday night. Hines won the “Sustainability Award.”
A team from Spur, Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, went with a Fry Daddy and a toaster oven — the latter newly purchased that day — to recreate the restaurant’s beef carpaccio with deep-fried bearnaise. Vuong Loc from Portage and Pig and Whistle, meanwhile, had had cooks running lamb chops from the main-floor oven to his upstairs table.
It’s tough when you’re assigned to do a dish like Mark Fuller of Spring Hill’s wood-grilled spot prawns, where the wood-grilling took place at the restaurant, and the dish was finished off at McCaw. And there was plenty of it left to do — creamy grits, poached egg, shrimp gravy, and wild mushrooms.
Jason Wilson of Crush showed off a lush butter poached lobster with gnocchi and white truffle cream that set off its richness with a punch of fresh citrus. He told StarChefs that it, like his overall philosophy, was all about scratch cooking and equilibrium: “In the lobster dish you have a lovely flavor of earth and truffle, and the ocean flavor of the lobster. The pasta is made fresh, the coral sauce is sweet and nutty, the garden sorrel has astringency—it’s all about creating balance.”
Stuart Lane of Cafe Juanita had two dishes to present — one of them involving searing rabbit livers, transferring them to a plate, and immediately deglazing the pan and making a pan sauce for the livers… tight timing and intense work, plate by plate, for hundreds of guests throughout the night. First he told Cafe Juanita owner Holly Smith he would handle the table without her… but she did lend a hand during crush time, where we found his second dish, these amazing, rich-yet-delicate rabbit agnolotti plin.
I wouldn’t say anyone at the event had it easy, but some dishes lent themselves more naturally to the pressures.
“Home court advantage!” cheered Kelly Gaddis of Savor at McCaw Hall, the “host chef,” who had us seeing stars with an asparagus panna cotta with fermented black garlic, hollandaise powder, egg, and guanciale that left us talking for 10 minutes about how much we missed Porcella. (Ten points to the first person who identifies the happy customer in the photo.) We asked our server how they put together hollandaise powder. Two words: Tapioca maltodextrin.
Does that have salt?” a woman asked as she approached the table. Did anything at the event not have salt? Would we want anything not to have salt?
Skillet was there sans truck, but Josh Henderson brought his dad, which was even sweeter, and served up spice-braised pork belly on cornmeal waffles in to-go containers.
Despite all those star turns, it’s the daring desserts that have stayed on my mind the most. Matt Kelley of Rover’s assembled his goat cheese Bavarian in a shocking dress of red beet foam, flirting with the sweet-rough nature of root vegetables in a way I’d never considered.
And Dana Cree of Poppy pulled out her little black dress of a cake, a bittersweet chocolate terrine whose flavors seemed to change bite by bite, here a mouthful of ginger, there a slow smoky hint of cumin. Even her toffeed cashews had a magical touch, somehow tasting crisp and hollow-light. I spent at least five minutes the next day trying to describe the flavors to a friend, and it wasn’t enough time.
Here are the recipes for Ethan Stowell’s crudo and for Dana Cree’s terrine, both adapted by (and courtesy of) StarChefs. I haven’t tried the terrine out yet, so I asked Dana, who also writes for Tasting Menu, if the home adaptation is close enough to her restaurant version that cooks can really accomplish the same experience. She pointed me to a more scaled-down version, about a quarter the size, that she had printed on her old blog a few years back, here. It’s evolved a bit since those days, she noted, writing that she rarely looks over that blog anymore. It’s “like looking at old highschool pix.”
Cobia Crudo with Fennel, Chilies, and Taggiasca Olives
Ethan Stowell (Adapted by StarChefs.com)
Yield: 4 Servings
Fennel, Chilies, and Olives:
1 bulb baby fennel, top removed and thinly sliced on a bias
¼ cup Taggiasca olives, pitted and quartered
1 small Serrano chile, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1 pound cobia fillet, skinned and deboned
To Assemble and Serve:
Sea salt (Stowell recommends Murray River)
½ cup baby greens (watercress or arugula)
For the Fennel, Chiles, and Olives:
In a medium bowl mix the fennel, olives, chile, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with salt and keep at room temperature for about 20 minutes to let the flavors develop.
For the Cobia Crudo:
Slice the fillet into 1/8-inch thick pieces, about 16-20 slices in total.
To Assemble and Serve:
Arrange 4 to 5 pieces of cobia crudo so they are slightly overlapping. Season the fish with sea salt and spoon the fennel, olive and chile mixture on top. Sprinkle baby greens around and serve.
Bittersweet Chocolate Terrine with Gingerbread, Cashews, and Sesame
Adapted by StarChefs.com
Yield: 16 Servings
Bittersweet Chocolate Terrine:
640 grams 64% bittersweet chocolate
5 grams sea salt
3 egg yolks
160 grams sugar
250 grams heavy cream
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
50 grams sugar
1 vanilla bean
200 grams heavy cream
Cumin Toffeed Cashews:
500 grams cashews
60 grams butter
160 grams brown sugar
130 grams corn syrup
10 grams salt
10 grams toasted ground cumin
5 grams garam masala
Dark Gingerbread Puree:
350 grams all purpose flour
220 grams sugar
50 grams dark cocoa powder
15 grams ground ginger
15 grams ground cassia
5 grams freshly grated nutmeg
12 grams baking powder
8 grams baking soda
10 grams salt
350 grams molasses
150 grams canola oil
225 grams water
Zest of 1 orange
50 grams pulverized fresh ginger
650 grams gingerbread
640 grams heavy cream
120 grams sugar, plus more as needed
5 grams salt, plus more as needed
100 grams sesame seeds
10 grams salt
To Assemble and Serve:
Crystallized ginger, julienne
For the Bittersweet Chocolate Terrine:
Preheat conventional oven to 325°F. Melt the chocolate with the salt over a double boiler. Keep warm. Warm the eggs, yolks, and sugar to 110°F and whip in a standing mixer until tripled in volume. Meanwhile, whip the cream to medium-soft peaks. Keep cold. Carefully fold the egg foam into the melted chocolate in 3 additions. Fold the cream into the chocolate until evenly distributed. Transfer the mixture to a foil lined half hotel pan, or a 9 inch x 9 inch cake pan. Cover the pan with foil make slits to vent. Bake in a water bath for 50 minutes; rotate after 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the water bath, and chill the terrine in the pan for 6 hours, or overnight. Use a heated knife to trim the ends and slice portions.
For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the sugar, and use your fingers to mix the two together and evenly break up and distribute the seeds. Mix the cream with the sugar mixture and allow to infuse for 2 hours. Whip the cream by hand to form very dense, tight peaks. Keep cold.
For the Cumin Toffeed Cashews:
Place the cashews on a Silpat-lined sheet pan and preheat them in a 275°F oven for 20 minutes. Cook the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, cumin, and garam masala to 250°F. Pour the sugar syrup over the cashews on the sheetpan and stir to coat. Bake for an hour in the oven, stirring at 15 minute intervals. After an hour, remove a cashew and let it cool on the counter. Test it to see if the toffee coating has become crisp. If not, continue cooking and stirring until this happens. With two gloves on each hand (the mixture will still be quite hot), break up the cashews while still hot to individual pieces or small clusters.
For the Dark Gingerbread Puree:
Preheat conventional oven to 350°F. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, ground ginger, cassia, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the molasses, canola oil, water, eggs, orange zest, and fresh ginger. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Pour onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and bake for 25 minutes.
For the Gingerbread Pudding:
Break up the gingerbread and place in the bowl of a food processor. Scald the cream with the sugar and salt, and pour over the gingerbread. Let the gingerbread stand in the hot cream for 2 minutes.Turn on the food processor and let it run for 2 minutes, or until the gingerbread pudding is very smooth. Taste and season with salt or sugar if necessary. While still hot pass through a fine chinoise. Store in refrigerator.
For the Salty Sesame:
Toast the sesame seeds until very dark (even darker than seems correct). While still hot, chop the sesame seeds with the salt until broken up. The oils should be warm enough to cause the salt to cling to the seeds during chopping. If not, re-warm the seeds before chopping.
To Assemble and Serve:
Spoon a tablespoon of gingerbread pudding on a plate and offset the terrine over the top. Place a dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream on one corner of the terrine and a small amount of the salty sesame on the other side. Scatter strips of crystallized ginger and cumin toffee cashews over the plate.
*post edited 3/30 to add Stowell’s recipe